Kevin Spence was an English Language Fellow in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from 2013-2014. In Kyrgyzstan, Kevin created a series of teacher-development workshops in the capital and outlying cities. He also established a service-learning community at his host institution and mentored his counterpart, supporting her when she presented at a regional English language teaching conference.
Other fellowship highlights for Kevin were serving as a judge for the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program and as a jurist for the 2014 National Olympiad for high school-age students. He appreciated the professional independence the program provides Fellows, which allowed him to pursue such interesting and varied opportunities. He credits part of his success as a Fellow to the “support of my Regional English Language Officer to simultaneously fulfill the requirements of the program, meet the needs of my local host university and incorporate my own ideas, which contributed to my professional development growth.”
Living abroad in Kyrgyzstan was a new and exciting adventure for Kevin, but living abroad anywhere can pose social and other challenges. In order to overcome the potential for feeling isolated, Kevin involved himself “with local language associations to meet others socially and impart my teaching skills and ideas, yet, at the same time, learn from other professionals in the local community. I liked most being able to interact with others and, again, having the independence to provide solutions to meet the needs of my local institution and population.”
Kevin especially enjoyed the opportunity to thrive in a country that he might not have ever lived in without the program. “I met great friends and colleagues – both American and other international professionals. This unique opportunity provided me the resources to flourish in a place that I would otherwise not have found myself without the necessary language skills.”
Kevin’s alumni status has helped lead him to participate as a Virtual Student Foreign Service e-intern for the U.S. Department of State’s Cuba Economic Baseline Study for the 2016-2017 academic year. Serving as group leader, Kevin worked with other university students across the United States and world. The goal of the study was to inform policymakers and other elected officials about U.S. policy and its effect on the Cuban economy. Kevin’s particular area of research focused on how U.S. policy varies across Cuba’s agricultural sector.
He attributes his continued involvement with State Department programs to his experience as a Fellow. “The fellowship provided a chance for me to rely on my own flexibility and independence as a professional. My trouble-shooting skills permitted me to incorporate some programs at my host institution with creativity in an attempt to make such programs sustainable,” Kevin said, applying what he learned as a Fellow to other projects. He hopes to tie his education and internship experience to his dissertation: higher education in Cuba.
He is currently seeking a PhD in Higher Education Administration with an International Education certificate at Kent State University. “The fellowship provided the professional development edge and finances, which supported my matriculation to a doctoral program. The ELF Program experience provided me the opportunity to speak as an expert and contribute to others’ learning in my doctoral program. My experience makes me a competitive candidate in both academia and the private sector,” Kevin said.